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The Visalia Rawhide has renovated its stadium and has become an integral part of Visalia's social fabric. Professional baseball has been played in the Central Valley city for 65 years.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Tom Seidler, a member of the O'Malley family that used to own the Dodgers, runs the team on a day-to-day basis, living in Visalia and operating in the same hands-on, family- and employee-friendly way in which his grandfather (and Uncle Peter) ran the Dodgers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

"Sport," the team mascot, roams off the field during batting practice.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

The proximity of the stands to the field is the most intimate of any professional ballpark in the United States. Fans can taunt, cheer and, in some cases, flirt with the players taking the field.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Recreation Ballpark is the smallest professional baseball park in the United States, and certainly the most intimate.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Tipper, a team mascot, is framed by two light towers. The towers date back to the 1940s and are one of the few remaining parts of the stadium awaiting renovation.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Nicki Handley, Visalia hairdresser and Little League mom, cheers a home run scored by the team. Dugouts and special sections around the stadium are made available for group and party rentals.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

The red barn in center field is a landmark in Visalia, and a nice target for sluggers to test their home run prowess. At more than 400 feet, few can reach it.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Between innings, the team organizes races, tugs of war and dance contests to keep the fans entertained.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

The Rawhide team leaves the field after beating its nemesis, the San Jose Giants, in the bottom of the ninth inning.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Friday nights feature post-game fireworks.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

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Minor league team integral part of Visalia's social fabric

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Minor league team integral part of Visalia’s social fabric

Tom Seidler, the 43-year-old owner of the Visalia Rawhide, hails from baseball royalty. He is a grandson of Walter O’Malley, the patriarch of a family from an era that now seems sacred in Los Angeles, especially as the city broods over the current state of its Dodgers.

Seidler is the last direct link between the O’Malleys and professional baseball – the only family member still intimately involved in the game. He is overseeing a rebirth of baseball in Visalia by sticking close to his family values. The O’Malley Way means character matters, details make a difference and fans must be heard.

Read Kurt Streeter’s story.

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